“We are not meant to be like this, so secluded,” said David J. McQuillan, 21, a junior and vice president of the student government. “I understand why some people might call it a prison.”
One thing that Dr. Anarumo could do from his dormitory room was hear them out: Complaints about residential life, about the food and uncollected trash, were already simmering on social media. “The pot was boiling,” Mr. Williams recalled. “People were angry, very angry around campus, very angry.”
Mr. Williams had these thoughts on his mind when he dialed Dr. Anarumo’s number, and they talked for half an hour about life on campus. Knowing he was in a dormitory, it was harder to stay angry, said his friend Jamaal M. Shaw, another sophomore, who was also on the call.
“We saw how he was living, and also that he wanted to see what it was to be a cadet,” Mr. Shaw said. “That’s something. Even though it’s very small, it’s something, that he took that extra measure to see if morale was high.”
Dr. Anarumo, a father of four, had warned students not to break quarantine rules by visiting him in person. But every now and then, he found a student waiting in a common space, craving face-to-face contact.
“They’d be waiting for me in the stairwell, all quiet,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, can I help you? Are you OK? Do you need to talk?’ And they said, ‘Yeah.’ And then I would see the tears.” At moments like that, he said, “they needed to see me in person.”
By mid-February, when the in-room quarantine was lifted, the number of students on campus had dropped to about 1,100. Many of those who remained had found strategies to cope with isolation.